Thursday, September 10, 2015

Yet another Chicago-area political pick, perhaps we should enjoy while we can

Call it one of the intriguing aspects of being a Chicago-area political reporter in the Era of Obama – many of our local officials got roles within the federal government.

GILMORE: Chicago's new U.S. Marshal?
It’s a unique aspect, one that will come to an end once the Obama Years end in January 2017. A new president will have his (or her) own political people to reward.

SO IT WAS within that context that I saw Obama’s nomination this week for the U.S. Marshal to be based in Chicago and oversee northern Illinois.

It’s Edward L. Gilmore, who started out as a police patrolman in Chicago, had a significant career with the Drug Enforcement Agency but for the past seven years has been chief of police in suburban Calumet City.

Which actually happens to be my childhood home city, and also was a city I covered as a reporter for one of my now-former employers. Meaning I actually have had my own dealings with Gilmore – whom I always found to be a unique official within those in law enforcement.

A firm, but soft-spoken temperament. Not as full of as much “law and order” bluster as many cop-types often like to spew.

WHICH MAY HAVE worked to the benefit of Calumet City a few years ago when an autistic teenager was shot to death in his own home by a pair of police officers. The teen was black, and Jesse Jackson was among the activist-types who wound up speaking out.

Black residents (who these days comprise nearly three-quarters of Calumet City’s population) were offended (the cops were white). The incident had all the potential to become a racial hot-spot.

“Calumet City, Ill.,” could easily have become “Ferguson, Mo.” a year or so earlier.

Yet it was the fact that Gilmore didn’t feel the need to get all defensive about his department (an Illinois State Police investigation later found the officers acted in self-defense, making the shooting justified) that likely kept the public from expressing its anger more vociferously.

GAINER: Also ended cop career w/ federal post
I ALSO RECALL the disappearance of a woman (her body turned up in a wooded area near Lowell, Ind., several months later) that had parts of Calumet City all upset. I still recall the way that Gilmore went out of his way to keep the public apprised of the investigation.

To the point where there were certain local residents who were better informed about things than I (a local news reporter) was. Not exactly the usual reaction from a cop to want to clam up about what is happening until they can say a situation is resolved.

Gilmore was the first African-American ever to head the Calumet City police department, and he came along at a time when a former police chief had faced criminal charges (acquitted, but still fired from the post) related to narcotics.

He also came at a time when the population of Calumet City had changed from heavy white ethnic (local historians like to talk about the strong Polish influence that founded the city in the 19th Century) to majority black.

GILMORE’S TEMPERAMENT MAY have been what made the department more accepting. I recall one time when Gilmore walked into a room to overhear some of his officers making racially-tinged jokes – with the chief handling the incident with a quick, but firm, statement making it clear he didn’t approve.

Now, Gilmore moves on. Although he’s not the first local official to become a federal official. One-time Chicago Police official and Illinois State Police Director Terry Gainer went on to become head of the D.C. Capitol police, then sergeant at arms of the U.S. Senate.

OBAMA: How long will appointments last?
He was a George W. Bush-era appointee, but he remained into the Obama years until last year when he finally retired.

Which could be nice if Gilmore were able to remain beyond the term of the president who appointed him. Because the true loss to the public probably would be if Gilmore were to get bounced from the U.S. Marshal post a little over a year from now due to partisan politics.


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